Cap and Blame

Bradford Plumer offers some interesting thoughts in this piece  about the causes of slow federal progress on climate change legislation.

Climate change is a world public bad and most people free ride.  Overcoming the free rider problem is tough. How do you build up a “moral majority”?   The people of Berkeley are willing to do their part (and so am I) but who else is with us?   The great recession has not helped.  Have you read my paper with Matthew Kotchen on this  subject? Rush Limbaugh did (click here) and he didn’t like my work!

Environmental Concern and the Business Cycle: The Chilling Effects of Recessions

This paper uses three different sources of data to investigate the association between the business cycle—measured with unemployment rates—and environmental concern. Building on recent research that finds internet search terms to be useful predictors of health epidemics and economic activity, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate decreases Google searches for “global warming” and increases searches for “unemployment,” and that the effect differs according to a state’s political ideology. From national surveys, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a decrease in the probability that residents think global warming is happening and reduced support for the U.S to target policies intended to mitigate global warming. Finally, in California, we find that an increase in a county’s unemployment rate is associated with a significant decrease in county residents choosing the environment as the most important policy issue. Beyond providing the first empirical estimates of macroeconomic effects on environmental concern, we discuss the results in terms of the potential impact on environmental policy and understanding the full cost of recessions.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

6 thoughts on “Cap and Blame”

  1. Climate change is a world public bad and most people free ride.

    I can’t tell whether the hideous grammar and style of that sentence are due to personal carelessness or to a more general disregard for the English language among economists.

  2. The notions that economic opportunity and progress requires reducing taxes on business and the rich, reducing wages, and reducing the “burden” of regulation are subjects of relentless, right-wing and mainstream propaganda. It would be amazing if this were not the way people “think”.

  3. @J — I think it’s perfectly grammatical, just unconventional. I take it that Matt means a “world public bad” as the opposite of a “world public good”. Think of “bad” in this case as a noun, and it’s fine. And in the context that Matt uses it, at least to me it perfectly fine to use “bad” as a noun.

  4. When I took Latin, I learned a prescriptive grammar, whose objective was understood to be logical coherence, not mannerly markers of social class. “Climate change is a world public bad and most people free ride” is a seriously confused sentence, and, if it isn’t bad grammar, it is certainly bad economics. If you have a passing familiarity with the concepts of a public good and free-riding, you kinda, sorta have some notion of what Professor Kahn is waving his hand at. All the analytical discipline of terms defined in the context of a conceptual system is lost, in exchange for an ephemeral frivolity, celebrating the topsy-turvy. But, I guess it’s optimistic. Or, something.

  5. “…. the hideous grammar and style of that sentence ….”
    There’s nothing wrong with the grammar! English nouns verbs and adjectives, and verbs nouns and adjectives, and verbs adverbial compounds, and adjectives nouns, with gay abandon. (Can’t think offhand of an adjectived verb, but I’m not a specialist.) Are you seriously suggesting that “a bad” and “to free ride” are against the rules of English noun and verb formation? Compare “a yellow”, “to over-pay”, “to underwrite”.

    Style is another matter. You normally “free ride” by consuming or using a good paid for or produced by somebody else, singing a new pop song in the shower, walking in the park. Applying the idea to a “bad” is disorientating and unclear. There may be something in it, but the innovation calla for a lot more explanation from Matthew. The idea is probably that we should normally compensate others for doing them injury. We don’t however have to compensate others for wrecking their (and our) climate by carbon emissions, so we are by analogy “free riders”. “Vandals” would be clearer.

  6. I agree da grammer is good, yo.

    The larger point is Matt’s writing style. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

    Matt is asserting that bad economies decrease concern for the man-made global warming issue. This means bottom-up solutions and Matt’s frequent calls for more market solutions for adaptation take a hit. People are disconnected from nature and so prioritize other things.

    Matt is throwing it open to discuss grammar…erm…the weakness of our politics.

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